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The DA to lose its dominant position in Witzenberg?

Should turnout in the August election be, as expected, lower than in the 2014 national election the ANC is unlikely to benefit as much as projected above, writes Michael O’Donovan. Conversely, the lower turnout will benefit the DA by several percentage points and the prospect of them losing control in Witzenberg may have been exaggerated.

In 2011, the DA got the highest number of votes in the Witzenberg (Western Cape) local government election. It won 48% of the PR votes cast. By 2014 that proportion had fallen to 43%. Projecting changes in voting patterns to August indicates that the ANC may now get the greatest share of votes and the DA will become the official opposition.

Given the small margins between the ANC and DA control of the council will depend heavily on the ward component of the election and the turnout. Nevertheless the PR component of the election indicates that the ANC will, with more votes than any other party, be able to form the government for Western Cape.

Should the PR projections be correct, this election may mark a turnaround in the fortunes of the DA as several other Western Cape municipalities are in a position similar to Witzenberg. However the projections rely on voters behaving the same way in election of both types. While voters do tend to be consistent in terms of party affiliation the elections do differ in terms of turnout rates. Of most significance is that individuals are more likely to vote in national elections than in local elections.

Historically the lower turnout rates in local government elections have prejudiced the ANC by several percentage points. Obviously the turnout rate will not be known until after the election.

The expectation that the shift in voting patterns may not be as marked as projected is supported by indications that Witzenberg municipality has been performing relatively well. The Auditor general rated the municipalities’ adherence to financial requirements highly. Witzenberg received a clean (Unqualified without findings) audit for the 2014/15 financial year (the latest year for which data is available). Neither has Witzenberg exhibited the characteristics of a failing administration, it has not been subject to provincial intervention (s139) or had its Equitable Share allocation been threatened. Similarly, ESKOM has not expressed an intention of suspending bulk supplies of electricity to Witzenberg. The Auditor General indicates that only R 7.8-million was associated with unauthorised, irregular or wasteful expenditure.

The financial performance of the Witzenberg administration is such that that the minimum performance criteria have been met in terms of financial administration. This does not indicate that the administration of Witzenberg is necessarily efficient and effective. Nor does it indicate that the services provided are equitable, sustainable or value for money. An assessment of the latter will be expressed by the electorate on August 3.

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